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8 Rainy Day Improvements to Your Small Business

If you’ve had some business downtime in the past year, you’re far from alone. But as the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” and it’s vital that small business owners see the silver lining in all that cloud cover. In fact, rainy days can turn out to be the most important planning time for your small business.

Business analytics firm McKinsey & Company estimates that millions of small businesses “will need to make extreme changes to survive” because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That means business owners are rethinking everything from the health and safety protocols in place in their public establishments to the staffing levels they relied on in the past.

What else can a small business owner or independent entrepreneur do to weather big changes? In this article, NASE covers eight ways to improve the resilience of your business for the days ahead.

1. Finetune Your Brand
All businesses, products, and services have a brand, whether it’s part of a highly conscious marketing strategy or the culmination of years’ of customer service. A brand includes everything from a name and logo to a reputation for quality.

Business owners often give a lot of thought to branding right in the beginning — when you’re choosing a name, creating your signage, deciding how you want to pitch your services — but over time, the brand can fade into the background while work rolls in. Years can go by without a review of that all-important first impression.

If you find yourself in a business hibernation period this year, it’s the perfect time to refine your brand and marketing to focus on your strengths, including some strengths that might be new to you. Start with a few questions. Ask yourself: 

  • What problems does my company solve? How are my solutions unique?
  • Are there ways my offerings have broadened to serve customers (and potential customers) in new ways?
  • How has my business overcome recent challenges?

It’s a badge of honor: You are reliable, resilient — and you’re here for your customers. Although they’re not part of your core brand, adaptations like offering curbside or delivery service, or being responsive via new technologies and on social media are practices worth showcasing to customers.

2. Upgrade Your Website
A slow period is the ideal time to create or revamp your company’s website, add a portfolio or video content, or establish your online shopping functionality.

For many businesses, a website serves primarily as a home address on the internet. It’s a place customers find your phone number, physical address, and business hours. As a baseline web presence, it serves its purpose the way a listing in the Yellow Pages of the phonebook does. It assumes, however, that visitors will come find you.

A website can also be so much more. If it’s been a few years since you launched your website, it’s worth taking a look at new multimedia, communication applications, eCommerce and marketing tools. Google offers business analytics and services to help make sure you show up when potential customers look for your services, and drive relevant local searches to your website.

A visual refresh of your website may also be in order. Design trends come and go, but mobile-friendly and accessible design is key.

3. Refresh Your Social Media
Take some time now to revisit your social strategy. At some point, many business owners create social media pages across multiple platforms — only to let some stagnate, become outdated, or unmoderated. The last thing you want is for customers to be reaching out on an account you don’t check regularly.

If you have some dormant accounts and feel overextended online, make the decision now to either revive or deactivate some accounts. Not every business needs a Pinterest board!

On the other hand, social media might be a neglected opportunity for your business, especially in a period when more people are doing business and finding solutions online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all rich with potential to engage and discover new customers.

Unlike virtually every other marketing platform, they’re free. Your investment is whatever time and content you put in. Social media platforms are also teeming with people all day long.

Beyond the Facebook and Twitter types of social media, don’t neglect the possibilities afforded by YouTube, TikTok, and the booming world of podcasts. All the media you generate on one platform can be amplified across your other channels and on your own website to increase traffic to your business.

4. Sharpen Your Skills
Mastering new skills is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your business, but it’s often hard to find the time.

Every moment counts! Each hour of downtime you have now can be an investment in your skillset or education.

Online training courses as well as (free!) Youtube tutorials, podcasts, and good old-fashioned how-to books abound. Beyond the internet, your local community college or university offer professional development courses in marketing, accounting, and business to sharpen your skills.

A slow period in work is an optimal time to introduce software or processes into the workflow, giving yourself and your employees time to perfect a new system.

5. Clean Up
Spring cleaning is a seasonal tradition, but while we clean the cobwebs from the office corners and open the blinds, the maintenance of certain staples — computer databases, filing cabinets, and storage closets — is often overlooked.

Some areas of our workspaces evade routine cleaning because they contain sensitive data or are not accessed on a daily basis. In other cases, it may be that a database or machine is too integral to daily operations to be taken offline for maintenance.

In either situation, a slow period in your business is an excellent time to combat the clutter. With nonessential staff working from home, it’s easier to sort and shred files, replace and clean computers and phones, and even rearrange and repaint an office space.

Cleanup isn’t just good for on-site work stations. At home, we tend to think of cleaning, rearranging, or organizing as a form of procrastination. But it’s a productive use of your time!

In fact, many business owners and employees came home to telework last year on an impromptu basis, meaning their office “work stations” were set up on the fly in spare bedrooms or even in the middle of family rooms. What started as a temporary situation became a state of permanent disorganization — and that brings built-in inefficiency and distraction.

Taking the time to rearrange and properly organize files and desks in your downtime will result in productivity gains over the long term.

Digital cleanup is no less important! A slow day spent backing up files, cleaning computer systems, and even organizing your email inbox will pay off.

6. Reach Out to Customers
Take time to touch base with customers with a phone call or email to say hello. They may not be in a position to buy from you, but an honest call to check in and touch base can strengthen your business relationship. A single conversation is worth more than ten heartfelt “in these trying times” emails.

So you get a client on the phone: What do you talk about beyond sales?

First, keep in mind that your circumstances are being felt across the board in this economy. It’s likely that many of your clients — especially in business-to-business industries — are going through the same thing you are. If you’re seeing a dip in business, your customers may also have unwelcome downtime and feel bored or unproductive working from home.

Talk about how you are coping, ways you’re moving beyond the slow times, and ask how they’re grappling with their challenges.

Sharing in the experience can give you new ideas on how to cope, too. And a friendly call builds loyalty, which can translate into future sales.

7. Self Care
A slow period doesn’t translate into lower stress; in fact, less business can mean more pressure and the urge to put in longer hours for less. But that’s a quicksand you won’t get out of by struggling.

When the pandemic forced millions of Americans to work from home, many thought the lockdown would free up hours lost in the daily commute. It’s true: according to one estimate, between March and September of last year, Americans spent 60 million fewer hours on the road. But instead of using all that time to sleep more or take better care of ourselves, many of us just worked during our former commute hours instead.

In light of this massive increase in productivity, it’s important to recognize that taking care of your physical and mental health is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your business. Resist the temptation to fill all your extra time with extra work.

8. Get Your Finances In Order
April showers are the perfect weather for planning a rainy day fund. The abrupt economic slowdown last year taught many small businesses a bitter lesson about having an emergency plan and savings in place.

Downtime in your business is a good opportunity to informally audit your books and scrutinize your budget. Is your recordkeeping as good as it could, or should, be? Do you have your tax records in order?

Obviously, if less money is coming in, the money going out matters more. Small drips of outbound dollars can add up. Chances are there are ways to tighten your spigot. Are you continuing to spend on monthly subscriptions or services you may not need?

For more tips, contact the experts at NASE. Our licensed professionals are here to help your business bloom.

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